Well, unfortunately, Hillbilly Elegy has lived up to its 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even without reading the apparently fabulous book, I would not say this was a particularly good adaptation, nor was it good as a standalone movie.
My first criticism is that the movie did not particularly feel like one, cohesive story. I felt like I was watching one episode from a series, and an episode that was not particularly important, just an inclusion of some plot points. When the movie ended, it was very abrupt, with no conclusion at all, and I was very confused as to why it was over because there was so much left unresolved. I was enjoying the story as it went along, and I thought that with another 30 or 45 minutes, perhaps there could have been a more thorough ending and wrap-up of the storyline. As it was, I sat there when the movie ended thinking, “Wait, that’s it? That is where they decided to end it? I thought there would be more!”
I will say that I really enjoyed the different characters and their struggles, and was sympathetic for the main character and his struggles. I thought the acting was well done, but I was disappointed that the actual plot of the movie did not live up to the skill of its actors. I thought that the grandmother was particularly fantastic as both the character she was playing and the actress herself. I really appreciated the dichotomy of her role as both a mother trying to protect her own child as well as a grandmother trying to make sure that her grandchildren do not suffer the same fate as her own children. I really did not expect some of the information we learned about her past, and I thought the character was well-written.
Much of what the online chatter about this movie spoke about was the misrepresentation of lower-class America, and the erasure of the political underpinnings of the original story from the book. I did not feel this movie was political almost at all, except for just a bit of discrimination based on where you are from and your roots. But I did not feel that the main storyline expressed a particularly political theme. I also don’t know much about the typical lifestyle of those in lower-class America, but the movie definitely felt a bit typified and cliche for sure.
Overall, I would not say this movie was worth the watch. I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to go for, but this was definitely a misrepresentation of the book and was not particularly cohesive as a story anyway. I would advise reading the book instead!